Rewriting the company script

Photo by lee junda on Unsplash

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen me put out a few Tweets talking about the inanity of corporate-speak in the midst of the apocalypse.

I shouldn’t care. My love affair with corporate life was over a long time ago, and now, well, I persevere that or I’m too stupid to exit stage left.

But it pisses me off.

Like I say to my wife:

Language is everything; and words are powerful.

At this point, I’d love to scrape a few mission and vision statements from just one of a number of companies who, much like their competitors, continue to tell the world:

“It’s fine. We’ll get through this. We have the technology and wherewithal to withstand the coming shock, and in fact we might do pretty well.”

And trust me, this is being generous to my corporate misfits in actually mentioning that there is a big effing problem. A lot of them don’t even mention the fact that we’re in the middle of the Anthropocene. (I do wonder if the marketing and PR folk are playing a blinder or, alternatively, they’re desperate to say something but their Bosses tell them in no uncertain terms: “Keep shtoom. Just think of the share price.”)

Now, far from me to offer my little ol’ opinion on why companies don’t understand or not sufficiently the magnitude of the problem but absent their ecocidal behaviour, aided and abetted qua consumer, we wouldn’t be so deeply mired in the climate catastrophe. And of course, that’s not the only issue that’s undermining the very ground of our divination but it’s driving most of the dialogue.

It’s obvious why things are this way. The money, stupid. Always the damn money. It needs a return, as do pension funds and investors and I don’t see any company taking its foot off the growth/profit pedal anytime soon and asking itself a more fundamental question than how they survive when everything around them is breaking down. Surely, it’s not beyond the wit of most boards to realise that their company has no future by dint of the fact that it relies on the earth’s natural resources and the staff which pull the levers and they may not be around or in sufficient numbers to keep the good ship profit up and running.

But companies, operated by their directors and informed by their shareholders, are resourceful little things and I’d be amazed if there hasn’t been some disaster planning afoot to estimate the impact of, say, a 3°C rise in temperature and what needs to be done to mitigate the issue. Then again, given that most companies are in the small business category, I doubt if they’ll be able to do much when the faecal matter hits the fan, other than adapt their business model as best they can.

Apart from the profit motive, I also wonder how anyone can turn up to work and say with a straight face that everything is fine. It’s not. In fact, I think it’s a lot worse than we believe it to be and I’m amazed that there hasn’t been more litigation to take account of not just the fossil fuel companies who’ve operated their businesses so recklessly apropos the climate but every other business that is a net polluter (read into that, that they take more than they give). But that’s every company, right, including the funders? I know, it’s a preposterous argument to call out every company for its earth-destroying credentials but by now it must be obvious that they’re the reason we’re in this mess, albeit that their defence (amongst many others they could run) would be to say:

“We operate within the strict limits of the law.”

Yes, I see (*yawns*) but perhaps the law is out of step with reality, as I believe was the case with the Heathrow Runway decision. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that as well as a law of ecocide, we also need to recognise fully the rights of nature. And yes, it’s an actual thing. My concern though is that the courts would soon be overwhelmed (and put to one side the funding and resourcing issues) with the number of cases. In the end, as is so often the case, the legal entity entrusted to act for nature would have to pick its targets carefully and only go after the most egregious culprits.

Back to my language point.

If I’ve any message to this post it’s to exercise and engage your conscience when crafting what’s on your website and corporate material. Stop telling everyone that it’s fine and understand that the 6th mass extinction applies to your business and its staff just as much as it does to the governments and quangos around the world who are running out of time to halt the earth-shattering decline of this once pristine planet.

Take care.

— Julian

ecological pessimist — influenced by Zapffe, Benatar, Thacker